Dutch examine a national metro
NETHERLANDS Railways and the Ministry of Transport are studying a plan to operate the 2808 km national network as if it were a metro. The network would be divided into 12 regions, and up to six fast and six slow trains an hour would run in each direction between cities in the Randstad conurbation. Many services would operate over shorter routes than at present, obliging passengers to change trains more frequently. Connections would no longer be held at interchanges as services would be more frequent. Inter-city trains would in some cases run at slower speeds to make best use of available line capacity, which would need to be increased by use of moving block signalling or its equivalent.
Cost of the proposal is put at €13bn to €19bn over 18 years, but this is estimated to be half the investment that would otherwise be necessary in new lines and quadrupling.
The Ministry of Transport has meanwhile announced that opening of HSL-Zuid has been delayed until April 2007. Costs have also risen by €9m thanks to a court ruling on the alignment at Bergschenhoek, just north of Rotterdam, where the line must be sunk in cutting rather than raised on a viaduct. The NS-KLM consortium that won the bid to operate services over the high speed line has expressed concern that fares income will not meet track access charges, and is reportedly budgeting for a loss at least until 2010.